tips

A Dad Who Shows Up

"Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go." --Joshua 1:9

Read: Joshua 1

A few years ago, I was living a fitness writer's dream -- working at Weider headquarters in Los Angeles, contributing to two of the most widely-read publications in the industry. But it came at a cost. Hopelessly long commutes and deadline-packed work weeks meant that I was arriving home in the evening with just enough time to kiss my baby girls goodnight and spend a few hours with my amazing wife before heading to bed to do it all again the next day. Though I was flourishing in my role at work, I was far from fulfilling my role as a father. My girls needed a dad who showed up.

I left Weider HQ, along with my bi-monthly paychecks and generous benefits, in hopes of remedying the situation. The overwhelming uncertainty was worth the risk. Today, I am still blessed enough to write for several fitness publications, only now it's out of a home office. With my girls now at school age, they can count on seeing dad in the seats for every school performance and on the sidelines for every sports camp. They can depend on me to be there to prepare them for the school day and to be there when class is out. They have me to guide them along when it's time to ride on two wheels and to pick them up when their balance fails them. I may no longer be at the center of the industry but I am at the center of their childhood and that's alright by me.

Like my girls with me, I draw comfort from the unfailing, divine presence of our Father (Joshua 1:9). He is there when we struggle and when we succeed. We can look to Him when we crave guidance and reach with certainty for His outstretched hand when we fall. We can absolutely depend on His love to find us, each day, and always when we need it most. We never need to ponder whether He'll be absentee in our life story.

He could have stayed in heaven but the distance and disconnect were simply too much for Him to bear. He needed to be closer to His children and was willing to bear the consequences to come. He didn't want to miss a thing. Architect of the heavens, Author of our DNA -- there's no disputing His resume. But by a grace we can scarcely understand, He is most at home in a much simpler role: as a Dad who shows up.

--Eric Velazquez

NUTRITION: Stir-Fry Basics Stir-fry is a quick and easy weeknight dinner. They make a well-balanced meal with a bit of protein, tons of veggies and healthy carbs from rice. We’ll run you through the basic steps to get you started, then share a few ideas to liven things up.

>> "Wok" this way for better stir-fry! (Click here)

>> SOCIAL NETWORKS: Now you can "like," "join," "tweet" and "watch" PrayFit. Click the links below to get plugged in with the rest of the PrayFit community. Facebook HeavenUp Twitter YouTube

Through Your Life

"For who in the skies above can compare with the Lord?" --Psalm 89:6

Read: Psalm 89

Yesterday I got the most humbling invitation. The Director of Alumni Relations e-mailed me and said that the Regional Alumni Selection Committee selected me as one of four Distinguished Alumni of The University of Texas at Tyler where I attended graduate school. Not only that but I've been invited to accept the award at the Alumni Awards Gala in March being held in our honor. Friends, family and former professors will be there to celebrate and reminisce with me. Part of their correspondence said, "Thank you for your talent, your accomplishments and for bringing attention and value to your alma mater through your life."

Now, I'm sure we'll be sharing details as it comes closer, and we're already praying for the opportunity to speak at a church while we're there, but let's go back to the end of that sentence. "Through your life." Not throughout my life, but through it -- within it, inside it. Reading it the first time was rough, but re-typing it was even tougher; talk about humbling and undeserved. In that moment, I wished I had been a better student.

It's easy to think of Heaven on days like this. We've accepted an invitation we don't deserve, to celebrate a reward we didn't earn. You know, if we're allowed to reminisce about earth as we sit at Heaven's table, I know for certain that I'll wish I had been a better Christian, a stronger witness, and a closer follower. What could I have done with my life, my words, my thoughts, and my health for the Lord? Oh, but grace. Thankfully like the old hymn says, we'll "turn our eyes upon Jesus and look full in His wonderful face. And the things on earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace."

--Jimmy Peña

Question: Someday, we may just find out what more we could have done with our lives and health for the cause of Christ. I want my list to be short. What changes will you make today to ensure that you are as able and capable physically to fulfill your purpose? Let us know in the comment section below.

TRAINING TIP: RUNNING

When you get in from a run, do your back, arches and everything else hurt? We share your pain, but hopefully not for long. With these easy tips to correct your stride, your runs may quickly become more enjoyable. And in delight, there is consistency.

>> Click here for three ways you can improve your stride today.

>> The Word is out...PrayFit's new, challenging at-home workout DVD is helping people build physical and spiritual muscle! Still one of Amazon's top new releases in faith, this workout is the perfect way to reclaim your health. Share the link below with others, or order yours today!

A Thankful List

"In everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." --1 Thessalonians 5:18

Read: 1 Thessalonians 5

Do you like lists? I love lists. My wife and I can be driving, and all I have to say to her is, "Give me your top three for dinner" and she knows I'm asking her to name me the three people she would love to have over for a meal. Without hesitation, Kate Winslet, Dr. Charles Stanley and Derek Jeter are scooting their chairs under our table. We've done things like that for years. And don't get me started about New Year's resolutions. We've saved every list of resolutions for 18 years. Not only that, we witness, sign and ratify them. (I wish I were kidding). What can I say? I love lists.

Do you have one? A list of things for which you're the most thankful this year? What better week than this to consider it. Could be a friend, or new job or maybe your health has improved. (That last one would make mine, FYI.) Take a minute to think of, or better yet, jot some things down. Use our comment section if you'd be so bold. What are you the most thankful for as you look back on this year? Give me your top three. And if you say Derek Jeter, I just might have you over for dinner.

--Jimmy Peña

P.S. God has a list, and we're on it. You and I will be sitting at His table someday if we say yes. The invitation is open. It's up to us to accept it.

ASK THE NUTRITIONIST with Emily Ann Miller, MPH, RD

[Q] I am looking to save calories where I can and I know that switching to lower-fat milk is an easy way to do that but I love whole milk! What's the best way to switch without going crazy?

[A] That's a great question. Milk is a great source of healthy protein and should be part of any healthy lifestyle but a lot of people do love the whole and find it hard to switch to lower-fat and therefore lower-calorie milk. If you have a hard time switching from higher-fat milk, try combining half of the higher-fat with half of the lower-fat, and gradually change the ratio so that the amount of lower-fat is increasing. This will help your taste buds to adjust and eventually, you will probably prefer the lower-fat! The same concept works for switching from regular to diet soda.

Emily Ann Miller, MPH, RD is a registered dietitian and works at a Washington, D.C.-based independent, nonprofit science organization, where her work is currently focused on environmental and policy solutions to obesity prevention. She also speaks to groups about health and nutrition and provides nutrition education to patients at a free medical clinic that serves low-income, uninsured adults in the D.C. area. You can view more of Emily’s nutrition tips and updates by following her on Twitter, @EmilyAMillerRD.

Daddy, Daddy

"He fell with his face to the ground and prayed, 'My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.'" --Matthew 26:39

Read: Matthew 26

Ella's scream has a way of piercing ears but this morning, it broke my heart. In the arms of her swim instructor, who was imparting what my wife and I know are vital and potentially life-saving skills, a hysterical Ella reached out to me. "Daddy, daddy!" she cried, over and over. All I wanted to do was to take her hand, to let her know it would be okay, to reassure her that I would never let any harm come to her. Instead, I walked out.

I swallowed the lump of parental guilt in my throat when I remembered how important this lesson would be. She would have to suffer so that she could be taught. Turning away, in this case, was how I could best protect her.

God could have saved His son. He could have taken the cup (v. 39) as Jesus begged Him to do. With his only Son "overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death," God could have easily interceded on his behalf. Instead, against every paternal instinct and with His heart breaking, He did nothing.

When her 15 minutes were up, she sat smiling in Wendy's lap, feasting on a lollipop, the reward for her brief aquatic ordeal. At the pool, I turned away so that Ella could learn. In the garden, God turned away so that we could live.

--Eric Velazquez 

PRAYFIT RECIPE OF THE WEEK: Roasted Tomato Sauce

Makes 10 servings (1/2 cup each)

Ingredients:

6-8 large tomatoes cut into large chunks 1/2 large red onion, roughly chopped 1 red chili pepper, chopped 3 cloves garlic, whole 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided 1 teaspoon kosher salt 1 teaspoon dried oregano Freshly ground black pepper 1 can (15 ounces) canned tomato sauce, no salt added 1 tablespoon tomato paste 1/2 cup red wine 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Place tomatoes, onion, chili and garlic on a large sheet pan; add 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt, oregano and pepper and toss to coat. Roast vegetables for 25-30 minutes or until tomatoes just begin to char; set aside to cool slightly. In a large pot, heat remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil and then add the roasted tomato mixture, tomato sauce, tomato paste and wine. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add basil and parsley; season with additional salt and pepper to taste. Puree sauce using an immersion blender* until smooth.

*If you do not have an immersion blender, puree in a countertop blender in small batches. Make sure to hold the top of the blender closed with a dish towel while the machine is on.

Nutrition Information Per Serving: Calories: 80 calories Total Fat: 3 grams Saturated Fat: 0 grams Total Carbohydrate: 11 grams Protein: 2 grams Sodium: 139 milligrams Cholesterol: 0 milligrams Fiber: 3 grams

Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC is a registered dietitian and is currently a nutrition expert for the Food Network, and has worked as a media spokesperson for Cooking Light Magazine. She has appeared on Good Day Street Talk, Food Network.com, Access Hollywood and GMA Health. Visit her at Dana White Nutrition.

>> NEW TO PRAYFIT?: If you're new to PrayFit and are looking for tips on how to get the most out of your daily visits here, check out our handy "Getting Started" guide by clicking here.

>> SPREAD THE WORD: Our official page on Facebook has picked up over 10,000 "likes." Help us grow by clicking the arrow just below our cover photo, then clicking "share."

Be First

"Peter again denied it, and at once the rooster crowed." --John 18:27

Read: John 18

I can relate to Peter. In one moment, he declares adamantly he would never deny he knew who Jesus was; the next, he does it not once...not twice...but thrice. But still, what motivates me about Peter was that while he wasn't perfect, he was the one who stepped up. He wasn't always right, but he was never in doubt. First to reach for his sword to defend the Lord (only to be taught a quick lesson in self-control), and first to get out of the boat (only to be the example of how we sink without faith). But if you notice a common thread in the stories of Peter, the more he was first to fall, the more he learned to stand.

In our pursuit of a stronger faith, as well as to better health, we often make bold declarations that we will pray more, train more, and eat better...only to do the exact opposite the next moment. But friends, take courage. Keep being first. Set the pace with your family and friends. Remember, Peter knows what it's like to declare and fail, and to step out and sink. Pursuing obedience is a staggering undertaking. Fortunately, like Peter the pacesetter, we have a Savior who reaches further than the fall.

--Jimmy Peña

3 TIPS FOR FAT LOSS Master these simple tips to start losing inches and pounds

1 CARDIO TIMING: The best cardio approach is to find a program and stick to it. But if you want to maximize those minutes spent in a sweat, perform your sessions before breakfast or after lifting weights. During these two windows, your body is in a carbohydrate depleted state. And since stored carbs (glycogen) are your body's preferred source of fuel, a lack of them will cause your body to burn fat for fuel faster.

2 CARB TAPER: People like to occasionally go on carbohydrate droughts, opting for ultra-restrictive diets that limit this macronutrient for extended periods of time. But that is ultimately unsustainable. A better approach is to choose mostly slow-digesting, healthy carbs, such as those found in oatmeal, whole-grain foods, vegetables and brown rice. But you can take that a step further by limiting your carb consumption later in the day, when your body is more apt to store them as fat. Have the majority of your healthy carbs at breakfast, then have progressively less as the day wears on.

3 TRAIN HEAVY: Many people are afraid of training with "heavy" weights for fear of injury or, as with many women, for fear of becoming bulky. But lifting progressively heavier weights is really just a sure-fire way to drastically alter your body composition. When possible, train with weight loads that bring about failure around 8-12 reps. This will build more muscle. More muscle means more burned calories while at rest. More burned calories at rest means less stored bodyfat. Research shows that training heavy elevates metabolism higher and for longer than training with higher reps and lighter weight. (And don't worry ladies, "bulking up" from weight training is more of an old wives' tale than solid science!)

>> 28 DAY PROGRAM: Looking for a solid training and nutrition program to help you reach your goals? Pick up "PrayFit: Your Guide to a Healthy Body and a Stronger Faith in 28 Days." This book includes daily devotionals, structured workouts and meal plans that work. Find out more by clicking here.

Do You See Yourself?

"The Lord looks at the heart..." --1 Samuel 16:7

Read: 1 Samuel 16

Last week when PrayFit VP Eric Velazquez described seeing his resemblance in his daughter's faces, this weeping writer fought back tears. He said, "Jimmy, it's one thing to know they're your own flesh and blood, but when you start to see yourself, it's simply amazing. I'm at a loss for words." That says a lot coming from Eric, arguably one of the best writers in the country.

But you know, I want to be like Mya and Ella. Not that I want to look like Eric (handsome as he is), but the only thing I want more than being a dad one day is to be a child that resembles his Father.

Friends, as we end this work week, we hope that's the message you've heard here at PrayFit. Some enjoy the fitness tips, others the recipes. But don't miss this: Nothing matters unless we have Jesus in our hearts. If we're at a loss for words, our approach to wellness merely serves as a back-up to A) praise Him with our lives and B) help spread the gospel. Despite our highest highs and lowest lows, when He looks at us, it's His own reflection He longs to see.

--Jimmy Peña

"Lord, we love you. Our utmost desire is for you to live in our hearts. We seek your resemblance. See yourself, we pray. Amen."

WEEK IN REVIEW 

FAITH >> CUT TO THE CHASE: Let's follow Him so close that we're covered in His dust >> BREATHLESS: When we breathe it all out, He breathes it all in

>> WHAT CAN I BRING?: The One who matters most is the one that doesn't count

>> A DANGEROUS PRAYER: What will you do with the opportunity to live more healthfully?

FITNESS >> WORKOUT: Use this home-based routine to start the year with a sweat

>> EXERCISE: An in-depth look at one of the best exercises for your core

>> NUTRITION TIP: How to sneak more fruits and veggies in your diet

>> HEALTH: How higher protein diets help you stay lean  

TOTAL LOSS

December 14, 2010Read: Psalm 139 "For you formed my inward parts." --Psalm 139:13

"My frame was not hidden from you." --Psalm 139:15

As a little boy, I spent many a summer day sweeping floors and washing cars at my dad's body shop. I felt right at home amidst the bondo dust and paint fumes, even though I could often be found asleep in dad's office. But while I didn't pursue the family business, little did I know that the body shop was a great place to learn about grace.

Each day, customers would come in to either pick up their cars or schedule a drop off, but then there were those who came in just for an estimate. They'd wrecked their car or truck, and all they wanted to know was whether their vehicle still had value. Sometimes dad would have to tell them it was totaled; their car wasn't worth anything. A total loss meant the insurance company wouldn't touch it, and they'd have to pay for it all by themselves.

We've all wrecked our lives in one way or another, but even a total loss is no match for the cross. What the world gives no value, He gives grace.

--J.P.

MALL FAT? Don't let holiday shopping  derail your healthy-living goals

"It’s the heart of the holiday shopping season: Malls are flooded, parking lots are jam-packed, and your inbox is overflowing with e-coupons," says Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, PrayFit's resident healthy-eating expert. "Whether you’re hitting up the food court or doing your shopping online, keep these tips in mind."

Don’t…

...munch on free samples. The calories can add up fast.

...shop hungry. Eat a sensible meal before you head out to the store or sit at the computer.

...swig liquid calories. Large sodas and full-fat peppermint lattes can have as many calories as a meal.

...go overboard on holiday goodies. Just because you can buy a 10-pound bar of chocolate shaped like a Christmas tree doesn’t mean that you should.

Do…

...resist the wafting smells from the pretzel and cookie stands. Save those calories for holiday parties.

...pack power snacks. Granola bars, fresh fruit, peanut butter crackers, and trail mix are good options.

...keep your mouth occupied. If you find yourself mindlessly snacking, chew sugarless gum or sip on a  calorie-free drink.

...wash your hands before you eat, especially after a day of shopping.

>> For more healthy holiday tips, visit Dana's Healthy Eats blog on the Food Network.

Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition.